Each year, Cartoonists Rights Network International hands out the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award to a cartoonist in great danger who has demonstrated exceptional courage in the exercise of free speech rights under extraordinary circumstances.
This year, for the first time, the award is given to two women cartoonists. Globally, women only constitute 10% of the political cartooning population. The recipients are Indian cartoonist Kanika Mishra and Palestinian cartoonist Majda Shaheen.
One of Kanika's cartoons, depicting Asaram and his unwillingness to face a narco or polygraph test to prove his innocence.
Indian cartoonist Kanika Mishra, a resident in the city of Mumbai, was selected for her valor and exercise of free speech during a time of great peril. She received numerous threats from followers of a local holy man, Asaram Bapu, who were enraged at the humorous and focused cartoons she drew of his illegal sexual exploits. During this period she received phone calls from Bapu supporters threatening to kill her and her family.
When Kanika got word that popular cult leader Bapu had been accused of raping the 16-year old daughter of two of his followers, she reacted in the most powerful way she could. Four hours after hearing that there was a police manhunt for Bapu, Kanika tweeted and posted to her Facebook page a cartoon tweaking Bapu supporters’ blind faith in their guru. Kanika followed her post with more cartoons, one of him being hauled off to jail.
Reaction to Kanika’s cartoons was immediate. She soon began receiving requests for interviews from India Today and India’s most watched news channel, Aaj Tak. Following the media interest, a groundswell of new threats from Bapu's supporters broke loose. Throughout the siege by Bapu’s supporters she continued to take on Bapu's outrageous hypocrisy through her cartoons.
The award is also given to Palestinian cartoonist Majda Shaheen. In her cartoon, she depicts her view on the relationship between Ismail Haniyeh the senior political leader of Hamas and the Al-Quds Brigades. Angered by the cartoon, the official website of the Al Qud Brigade asked for details regarding her whereabouts in hopes of scaring her and her family. One site featured a picture of someone with the same name, with the word 'Execution' placed on it. Following numerous death threats, Majda Shaheen withdrew the cartoon from her Facebook page.
Majda is a member of Cartoon Movement, you can see more of her work here.
This year’s ceremony will take place on October 11th in San Francisco, California USA during the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists from the 9th to the 11th.